Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Save Money With a Hybrid?

So, fuel prices are coming back down significantly from their peak; in fact as much as a dollar here, and more in some other areas (the highest we saw here was about $4.39, prices are hovering around $3.35 now).

Even better, they look to remain relatively stable the rest of the year; but they are still significantly higher than they were when I moved back from Ireland at the end of 2003 for example (around $2.30 or so).

The fact is, fuel costs are still a fair percentage of our budget, and are likely to remain so fro the forseeable future. They're probably a fair bit of your budget too.

Although I work at home, and thus don't drive much; we have family that we visit frequently that lives 90 miles away, and who is our weekend babysitter etc... and all the normal running around attendant to a life with two adults, two kids, two dogs, two cats, a house etc...

And of course part of that life is that we need a truck. Really, a minivan or station wagon wont do it for us, we need the cargo hauling, towing, and ruggedness of an honest to god truck.

Said truck gets between 14 and 16mpg.

Our fuel costs on the truck right now run about $500 a month, on about 2000 miles of driving.

A while back we picked up a car that gets 26mpg to take over some of the mileage, and it's certainly helped. It basically kept our fuel costs constant through the big spike, as well as provided more flexibility in transportation and scheduling etc...

We had been a one car family for a while, but we ended up having to rent cars a couple times when we both needed transport at once, or when the truck was down for maintenance etc... so that purchase has proved its value. It's going to do so again in two weeks when we drive to Reno; given that we expect to run 2000 miles for the week, it's going to save us $200 in gas right there.

Still, the truck is still a gashog, and we're coming up on 120,000 miles.

I wasn't seriously considering replacing the truck for another two years though, since at that point it will be fully paid off, and it will probably be just about ready for a new motor, and new shocks (I've got the rear air suspension; not cheap to overhaul).

I WASN'T seriously considering it, until just recently; when Chevy came out with the Tahoe Hybrid.

The truck's had some great reviews. Apparently its around town mileage is even better than the 22mpg its rated for, so I think we'd at least hit the rated average; and supposedly the quality is really excellent.

Now I'm not one for hybrids in general. I don't believe in the whole "paying more to save the environment" BS; and I've yet to see a hybrid that wasn't both an environmental net negative anyway, and didn't end up costing more than you'd save.

Well, GM is in deep trouble right now, and they're offering some huge discounts on trucks... basically because no-one in their right mind is buying one now unless they absolutely need it.

My best friend happens to be a sales guy at one of the biggest GM dealers in the state; in fact he got us into our 26mpg car for $7,000 under book. He and I were shooting the breeze the other day, and he says to me "Hey, if you're looking to replace the truck, I can get you into the new Tahoe Hybrid, fully loaded 2wd, for $39,900...

That's about $14,000 off...

So I thought about it for a minute, and I decided to run the numbers.

The current truck payment is about $320, and we're paying $500 for gas on a 15mpg average and $3.50 a gallon. The truck has about a $4000 trade in value, and we could probably swing a $4000 down payment (though it'd make us cash poor for a while).

On a $40,000 truck, presuming a 6.9% interest rate (what we qualified for from GMAC), that would give us a 72 month payment (which I think would be nuts by the way, but they're doing it all the time now) of about $560.

At our current payment of $320, we'd have to save $240 a month to break even on the deal; presuming we don't have any other factors to account for (like increased insurance rates, or tax breaks for hybrids). Going to the hybrid would save us just under 50 gallons of gas a month, or about $175.

Oh and I think if you look at our numbers, we're about the BEST case you're going to see for a hybrid full size SUV, short of a delivery business; and we're still about $75 a month away from breaking even.

Of course that doesn't count the intangibles of driving a nice brand new truck, with a warranty. On the other side of course it doesn't account for the feeling of not having $40,000 in debt hanging over your head (new vehicles are ALWAYS a bad deal in this regard).

Now, that's against our current vehicle though. What if we were going to buy a new truck anyway; would the fuel savings between a hybrid and a standard SUV be enough to make up for the price difference?

The answer might surprise you...

The 6.0l hybrid 2wd Tahoe gets an average of 22mpg, and lists out at $53,000 with its only two options (navigation system and sun roof) selected (the 4x4 is another $3k). Current incentives make it just under $40k

The 6.2l 2wd Tahoe gets an avg fuel economy of about 16mpg, and lists out at... the exact same price as the hybrid model, when equipped the same way; with current incentives also bringing it down to just under $40k.

Whathahell?

Although the hybrid is likely to have higher maintenance costs over its lifetime, the fuel savings alone could run to $175 a month at current gas prices if you drive as much as we do; and I'd think that would MORE than offset any additional maintenance costs, even presuming gas prices don't go up again (which of course they eventually will).

Honestly, if you're in the market for a new, full size SUV right now, the only reason I could see to NOT buy the hybrid, is if you needed the increased towing capacity of the 6.2l gas over the 6.0l hybrid (8500lbs vs 6200lbs).

I can't believe I'm actually recommending a hybrid.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Virtual Boy - Part 1

Definition of Virtualization in Enterprise Computing

At this time there exists no coherent, industry wide, definition of virtualization; or accepted method of tracking what environments, application, and infrastructure are virtualized.

As there are many technologies, solutions, and even fundamental approaches available for virtualization (some of which will be review in later documents), one cannot simply identify a product, and define an application using it as being “virtualized”. In this instance a higher level definition is necessary.

To this end and for purposes of this document (and future documents in this series), enterprise virtualization shall be defined as follows:

Virtualization, is the provisioning of computing resources for applications or services, in a manner abstracted from the hardware that will provide those computing resources.

Typically, multiple virtualized applications may be provisioned on a single hardware instance (server, appliance, mainframe etc..); or cluster or plex of multiple hardware instances, behaving as a single instance.

Conversely, the computing resources for virtualized applications may be spread across multiple aggregated hardware instances or a cluster or plex of hardware instances.

Either class of provisioning would be considered virtualized.

Computing resources for an application may be mapped to dedicated hardware; however through the abstraction of virtualization, ideally, this hardware should be able to be changed without requiring the rebuild or reconfiguration of the virtualized instance (though some downtime may occur).

THE CHALLENGES OF THE “TRADITIONAL”
APPLICATION PROVISIONING MODEL


The traditional model of application provisioning involves defining a maximum resource requirement and projected growth requirements (for three to four years) for an application; and provisioning a dedicated server or servers which will provide up to 100% more computing resources than that projected requirement (depending on the application tier); each server requiring it’s own power, cooling, floor space, storage, and supporting infrastructure.

Importantly, in this model, the end user is paying full price for their projected needs, and must pay for a substantial portion (if not all) of the infrastructure costs up front. If the users business needs change, they will either need to go back and re-architect and re-implement the solution; or they will be left with excess capacity that they are paying for, but not utilizing.

Additionally, in the tradtional provisioning model, the enterprise must provision the full computing capacity, floorspace, power and cooling, and storage requirements for all projected growth of the application, without regard to actual utilization.

As a result, across the entire enterprise IT world, we have average CPU utilizations on the order of 6% to 8%, average memory utilization of 18% to 40%, and allocated storage utilization of 14% to 40% (these numbers represent broad ranges, because there are multiple conflicting data sources, depending on which organization, infrastructure, and measuring method are involved).

Compare these estimates, to “best practice” utilization goals of 40% to 60% average CPU and memory utilization, and 60% to 80% allocated storage utilization.

This is harmful both to the end user, and to the enterprise as a whole, because this underutilized infrastructure presents a large fixed cost, as well as a significant allocation of limited facilities resources.

Taken over an entire large enterprise, this inefficiency in resource allocation, implementation, and utilization can add up to hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted time, and wasted capacity. Across the entire world of enterprise IT, the total could be hundreds of billions.

Additionally, the significant upfront costs, and three to four year commitment of resources required to implement any solution; create an environment hostile to the development of new and innovative solutions. It is extremely difficult to create, develop, and test new technologies (that may, or may not, present viable business solutions when fully developed); if there are significant resource dedication requirements to even basic experimentation on a small scale.

Finally, the provisioning of physical infrastructure requires a significant expenditure of time and effort across many groups within an enterprise. Workflow analysis across large enterprise IT, shows that up to 160 individuals may be directly involved with the provisioning of a single hardware instance; and that provisioning may take up to 12 weeks from the inception of a project.

THE VIRTUAL COMPUTING MODEL

Virtual computing aims to address the issues raised above, by provisioning computing resources for applications in a manner independent of the hardware the application will be provisioned on.

Virtualizing an application allows an end user to specify only the resources they need, and allows the enterprise to allocate only what is required, from pools of available computing resources. This can be managed in a centralized way, to ensure adequate capacity, performance, availability, and quality of service are maintained; while improving average utilization of individual hardware instances from 4% up to as much as 60% (although average utilization can be increased over 60%, this is against best practices of capacity planning).

Additionally, if an applications resource needs to shrink or grow, virtualization allows the end user the flexibility to request additional computing resources, or reduce their computing resources (and thus reduce their cost); without rebuilding and re-provisioning the application.

Critically, this capacity can be provisioned at little incremental cost, and with minimal effort and involvement of personnel; far more rapidly (a matter of hours or days) than physical infrastructure can be provisioned.

Presuming efficiency, and effective management are maintained in the virtual environment, these efficiences of process and materiel can reverse the potentially hundreds of billions of dollars of waste in the traditional application provisioning model.

In future posts in this series, I will discuss virtualization technologies and methodologies.

Bitching

I've just been irritated the past few weeks.

First court (and the associated lawyers bills), and paying for the visitation supervisor.

Mel and I are driving to Reno for the Gun Blogger Rendezvous, which will be great (other than the 11-13 hour drive); but the 1700 mile round trip (plus a couple hundred miles local travel for the week) necessitated some car maintenance, and 4 new tires, at $1300.

We had an electrical fault in our secondary air conditioner that somehow allowed it to keep operating without exploding, while still drawing three times its rated power (rated for 13 amps, actually drew 38 amps); combined with a stuck breaker.

I don't even want to contemplate how close our house came to burning down, but we were never able to isolate the fault until we had a tech out from the power company. They changed our meter and verified the draw was accurate, and then we tested every circuit to find the problem.

Of course the fact that everything verified out as true and correct, meant that we were on the hook for 3 months worth of the excessive power consumption... which also put us into the high consumer billing tier... $2000 over our normal power consumption for the time period.

Then I've had a particularly irritating bout of insomnia going on for the last month, and it's got worse the last two weeks or so. I'm getting under 4 hours of disturbed and incomplete

To top it all off, I've been filling in for someone else at work, doubling my normal day to day workload and worse, my daily meeting load; while simultaneously having 200 pages of writing work to do... and I've had a bit of writers block.

All in all, I'm just a bit aggro at the moment; and I haven't been able to finish the bunch of long posts that I've started (sereiously, more than a dozen multithousand word posts)... and there's that writers block thing, so I think I'm going to share some of the couple hundred pages of work writing I'm doing.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bleg for recommendations and testing methods

Since I'm in charge of buying items for and packaging the care packages, I've been hunting up and down the aisles of Halloween candy looking for anything individually wrapped that is capable of surviving the trip and whatever happens to it after arrival.

I've obviously stayed far away from chocolate and anything else with a horrendously low melting point, but I really have no idea what would survive the trip.

So I've devised a testing mechanism, and I'd like to know what y'all think.

I'm going to package these individual candies in freezer bags (at least 3 candies to a bag), and make three different packages with all candies. The first set I'm going to package in a box and throw in my truck for a week. It's still 100 degrees out here, so the truck goes through some nice temperature variations daily between the highest internal temp (140 or so) and turning the ac on full blast every time I get in. I figure if every time I get in and out I throw the box around a bit (or let it slide free in the trunk, even better) that I'll have successfully replicated shipping conditions.

The other two sets of candies I will stick in the bottom of the kids' backpacks for exactly the same reasons, with the addition of being thrown a lot.

I figure whatever survives these testing conditions will survive being put in a care package or a soldier's pack.

Does that work for testing? Is there anything else I can throw at these things to mimic shipping and packing conditions?

Also, I'd like recommendations for what kind of candies will survive. Obviously I'm testing everything I put in (and will write it up of course) but I'd like some suggestions, especially from anyone who knows any individual soldier preferences. Right now I have:

Starburst, individually wrapped in twos (I don't expect these to survive, they are more of a control)
Skittles in the Halloween size
Dum-Dums
Jolly Ranchers

I'll pick up some more candy types this week.

Thank you for your help.

Mel

A Solid Win on Points

Mel and I watched the debate tonight.

No question, Obama may be good with rhetoric and delivery, but McCain crushed him on points.

Obama had one message tonight "John McCain is George Bush and George Bush is bad"... which really doesn't fly, because all the people who believe that are already supporting Obama.

Seriously, all night, Obama said basically nothing, except "I agree with John McCain" and "George Bush is bad".

McCain on the other hand had a good dozen one liners, message points, and sound bites. Stuff that Obama had no response for, and really should have.

Obama repeatedly tried to goad McCain, but McCain never rose to the bait... In fact he was far more tolerant than I would have been. Obama was clinical, McCain was controlled, but passionate.

I do wish McCain hd gone directly back at Obama about his flat out lies about economic policy, and several other points. I also wish that at some point he had said "Senator Obama, I am not George Bush, and you are not running against George Bush", or something to that effect; but I think McCain was really trying to stay above the belt here.

If we read an honest summary of the debate (admitedly we arent likely to see one from any organization besides Fox) and take McCains poor delivery out of the mix, all of this will be even more clear.

One other thing, the disrespectful and condescending tone, and repeated interruptions are also not going to play well. Obama came off as immature, rude, unprepared, inexperienced, and simply not knowledgeable.

McCains last words were that Obama didn't have the experience, knowledge, or judgement to be president, Obama didn't say anything in response. Think maybe he knows it's true?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Politically Incorrect Insight from Hollywood

CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #215

*Mr. Misogyny's
Tips For Breaking Through
the Glass Ceiling

SHRILL BAD, DUSKY GOOD: No man can happily work or vote for a woman whose voice sounds like a mom or wife yelling at him. Whether running a Fortune Five Hundred company or running for office, women should practice speaking like Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. (If you have small children present, rent Who Framed Roger Rabbit and check out Jessica Rabbit.) POWER WORDS: Down through the ages there have been secret words and phrases that a select group of women have known and used to give them control over men. Use them wisely and you'll be on the other side of that glass ceiling before you know it. A short list includes: panties, huge, amazing and "anything you want, just hurry." For increased effectiveness, say these power words like Kathleen Turner. BOOBS: If you got' em, flaunt' em. If you don't got' em, buy' em. (CAUTION: This will cause other women to hate you. Do not despair. Once you and your terrific rack are running things, you can fire the jealous bitches.) POLITICALLY CORRECT FLIRTING: There is no such thing. That being said, if, by subtle words or actions, you can make a man feel sexually viable, he will act like a fool and you can steal his job. If you think that's cruel, you're not ready to break through the glass ceiling and should instead consider marrying a fat guy with hedge fund money and a history of confusing his erection pills with his heart medication.

* The views and opinions of Mr. Misogyny are not endorsed, held, or shared by Chuck Lorre Productions, Chuck Lorre, anyone who works for Chuck Lorre, or any of his friends, neighbors and relatives.

Highly Qualified Individual

Dilbert.com

Bad Day No Content

Bad week really, probably not much content this week.

No, nothing to do with the custody issue; that looks very good. Just a bad week.

... 'course ever time I write something like this I end up publishing a 10k word post shortly after that I didn't even know I was planning on writing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

So the Court Appearance is Over...

But the drama is not.

Do to time restrictions, the judge asked the lawyers to submit their closing arguments in writing. They have until October 24th to do so.

Obviously we don't have a ruling yet, but its at least coming.

Thank you for the thoughts and prayers.

Mel

Friday, September 19, 2008

Headed to Court Monday Morning

Hopefully this last hearing will be the end of this legal drama. This is the big hearing, where the judge will decide custody arrangements for the children. I'm more than a little nervous and I can't wait until its over.

The judge has 60 days to rule, but hopefully it will all be over soon.

Wish us luck.

Mel

Three step plan to "fix the street"

There have been a lot of people screaming "fix wallstreet" or less rationally "Punish all the greedy capitalists, put them all in jail" etc... etc....

What bothers me is the economic ignorance inherent in these screams.

In almost all fields of human endeavor, reward is based on risk. If you want high rewards, you have to accept high risks; and when people invest, that's exactly what they are doing. Risking to reap rewards.

For some reasons, leftists have never understood this. Sometimes when you risk, you get big payoffs, sometimes when you risk you take big losses. That's just the way things are.

Markets don't prevent losses; and when a company goes out of business, that isn't a "market failure"; neither is it necessarily an indicator that anyone was doing anything illegal, or immoral, or unethical. In fact, it's a market success, because assets will then be reallocated to more efficient competitors in the market, and given another chance to appreciate in value.

Businesses fail, even when they are managed in accordance with all laws, regulations, and standards of ethics; because people make incorrect decisions... or just have bad luck, or more importantly bad timing.

The first thing any leftist screams when a big company goes out of business is "investigate them"... but why? Investing poorly isn't a crime, and usually, neither is bad decision making or bad management.

When it all shakes out, what's going to come out of all of this chaos in the financial markets is a lot of screaming, some pointless showy investigations by congress to prove that they are "doing something"; and maybe a show trial or two because someone made some paperwork errors.

What we're not going to find is a massive pattern of fraud, deceit, lawbreaking, or ethical violations; because that simply didn't happen here, at least on the brokerage house side of things (it did on the mortgage side of things; FNMA and FHLMC clearly had a pattern of fraud going on to inflate earnings, hide loses, and confuse risk analysis) .

What happened was, that the way companies allocated their investors capital became further and further divorced from the real world; and risks became harder and harder to evaluate; and lots of people made bad decisions.

The thing is though, we SHOULD be screaming... Hell we should all be imitating Jim Cramer right now; but not for the reasons the economic ignorati screech on about.

No, we should be screaming, because brokerage houses are playing games with the economy, and games with trillions of dollars of investors capital. They're doing it to make money for themselves at the expense of the investors they supposedly represent.

Or perhaps I should say traders capital; because people think they're investing in companies, when really what they're doing is trading. The problem is, the brokers have people convinced they really are investing.

The do it by dancing fast enough, and "explaining" convincingly enough that most people never catch on, that they brokers don't even understand what they are doing themselves; they're just trying to stay ahead of the trend and buy low sell high.

Well... sometimes they miss the trend.

And it's all legal, and even ethical, (at least by the standards of the financial world).

The thing is, there are only so many vehicles for growth investment, and only so much capital that needs to be raised... and there's an AWFUL lot of money out there looking for a place to grow.

At some point, there was just too much money chasing too few high growth opportunities; so brokerages invented new ways to bet the capital they manage.

Rather than direct capital to efficient competitors, and make money on the earnings, and growth of those companies profits (as is the supposed intent of capital markets); these new ways were designed to make money on... essentially betting that psychology would push things one way or the other faster than real world results would. Then, they invented other ways of hedging those bets in case the psychology worked faster or slower than they bet on

The real world moves very slowly, but psychology doesn't; and you make more money on motion than you do on straight growth and earnings.

Play your cards right, with enough market power, and you can make money on every turn. Go long and and loud, drive the volume, and take profit at the top of the market; then watch the trend reverse, and follow you out of your position, and short it at the bottom. You, and the people you're trading for, make money on both sides of the transaction; and you make two comissions and two fees to boot...

...But nothing actually happened with the company whose stock you just made money twice with.

These synthetic securities, derivatives, and complex instruments were all designed to basically allow a higher risk (because their relationship with actual money and business on the ground was complex and tenuous), for a higher reward, than a simple stock position could get you... and then to mitigate that higher risk, by supposedly combining multiple countervailing properties so that if one went down, another would go up etc... etc...

Either way, it was just a wager on a guess, based on a number and a thought; not an investment in a profit making enterprise with real workers, real assets, and real people working to make those profits and assets appreciate.

So that's the way it works. You're not investing, you're trading. Even if you follow a buy and hold philosophy, and invest for "value"; unless you're in it for the dividends (and comparitively few companies pay worthwhile dividends, if any, anymore), you still have to buy low and sell high to make money. Every time you buy or sell, your broker is right there, making money on the trade, not the growth or earnings. You make money, so does you broker. You lose money, your broker still makes money.

Unless of course your broker is right there in your position with you... or unless you are actually buying your position from your broker, and selling it to him; which is often how small individual trades work, with the brokers buying and selling large chunks of commonly traded issues, and making money on the intraday volatility, fulfilling your trades out of their large positions.

In terms of purse market economics, it's a very inefficient market; with imperfect information and poor allocation of recources to efficient market competitiors.

Such is life. There's no such thing as a perfect market, there never has been and there never will be; but the equities market in America today is awfully far from it's ostensible purpose, and from what most people believe it is and does.

Most critically, people believe the state of the equities market reflects the state of the economy. In reality they are very poorly coupled, in some freaksih dance where the lead and follow roles swap constantly, with snap the whip swings as they do.

The only way to "fix" this, is to end the decoupling of capital from the companies it is directed to; and drastically reduce the incentive towards volatility.

If you want to "fix the street", it will take three things:

1. Ban equities trading in, and securities based on, synthetic instruments (including complex, composite, and derivative instruments)

2. Ban all short selling (not just naked short selling)

3. Ban programmed trading

Of course if you did that, the massive investment banks, brokerage houses, financial services firms etc... would all lose MASSIVE amounts of money, because they would not longer be able to be bookies... they'd actually have to... Oh I don't know, put real capital into real businesses that do real things?

And short selling? There is no movement of capital to an effective competitor in a short sell; it's nothing but one person betting that another person is going to lose money. It's a pure wager... and often it's a self fulfilling wager because shorts are "market indicators".

Often people defend short selling as a valuable indicator that a company is poorly managed, or overvalued; and to an extent this is true; but it is still a wager on losses. No market efficiency is lost by someone simply selling their position rather than short selling; and capital motion is more closely coupled to the actual output of the company, rather than the volatility of its stock.

So ban derivatives and bundles and MBS's and CDS's and CMO's and all these other synthetic instruments. Ban brokerages and traders from making money by betting that other people will lose money. Basically, remove the incentives to volatility, and let the money get allocated where it will see the most growth.

Take the massive crash that results for what it is; the deflation of speculation, and the removal of a mode of decoupled trading; not the failure of the fundamental industries that the market is supposedly based on.

For while, we'll have massive problems; but eventually, the standards for risk evaluation, and liquidity management will come back to a sane norm.

In the short term, there would be liquidity problems all over the place; because no-one would understand how to direct their money. The thing is, the money is THERE, and without these complex securities to invest them in, it's going to be directed somewhere. The last thing people want to do is sit on their money and let inflation eat it.

Eventually, as things settle out, instead of directing capital into risky bets on psychology, that capital will be directed into actual profit making enterprises (or at least ones that plan on making a profit; I should note that startups are even riskier, and have even higher rewards, than complex instruments).

The net result is that everyone will make more money as growth is encouraged and new businesses get easier access to capital. The market becomes more efficient.

...Well, everyone will make more money but the brokers and traders who depend on the speculative volatility of issues, and the decoupled nature of complex instruments.

After that, we ban programmed trading.

All trades must be done by humans, all decisions must be made by humans, and a signature must be there from someone who is personally responsible for every trade.

Programmed trading looks for early indicators. As every house looks earlier and earlier, and scrutinizes harder and harder so they can beat the trend, they actually CREATE those indicators before the businesses they are supposedly investing in actually have any real change in their status or output; especially when shorts get programmed across a sector to hedge against the volatility of a single issue (This is one reason why when one bank puts out bad news, other banks see a hit as well - yes, this is grossly oversimplifying, I know, but this piece is already long enough).

These indicators then ripple through other programmed trading systems and create yet more indicators accelerating a false trend; until the programmed systems see indicators (again most likely false positives, or rather self fulfilling prophecies) for profit taking, which then dumps out and reverses the spiral.

The whole system is essentially a way for brokers and traders to make money on the volatility; rather than the movement of capital to efficient competitors, which is the real intention of an equities market (or at least of a capital market, of which an equities market is generally intended to be one)

Oh and I'm not even going to get into how the government distorts equities markets with regulation here. Suffice it to say I understand how much of a problem it is (or at least as much as anyone can... no-one really knows how much government screws up the market), but it's a different problem than the one I'm talking about now.

The combination of synthetic instruments, short selling, and programmed trading, just multiply each other; to the point where a 5% increase, or decline, in overall market value for the entire market in a single day is considered a relatively normal thing (yes, it's a big deal, but it's not so big a deal that its the end of the world)

Think about that for a second.

The companies that the street is theoretically investing in didn't actually lose 5% of their collective value overnight. The deposits in the bank that lost 90% of its market value overnight didn't suddenly disappear from the vaults. The mortgages they hold didn't lose all their value overnight (ok, some of them did, but most of them didn't).

The only thing that changed was the trend, and those chasing it; and the harder you're trying to chase the trend, the more volatile you will be, the faster you have to jump and run... and it just makes the brokers and traders and speculators more money...

...unless they get caught on the wrong side of the trend...

Back in the real world, you try to invest in good companies that will make real money by selling their goods and services; and those real companies try and make real money selling those goods and services. Meanwhile, the brokerages and traders, and speculators chase the trend up, then they chase it down, because they make their money on the change, not on the growth and earnings; all the time pretending they aren't just playing a gigantic game of duck duck goose with a couple trillion dollars.

The only way to stop it, is to ban equities investment in anything other than real companies doing real business; and to ban the computers from making the decisions.

Of course, we won't do that. Maybe we shouldn't even do that. Certainly the libertarian in me says that capitalists should be able to make whatever risky wager they feel like.

The problem isn't so much the wager, as it is that people are pretending what they are doing isn't gambling over other peoples behavior and psychology. So long as we allow investment markets to direct capital into ephemeral creations of nothing but numbers and confidence, instead of real businesses making actual money, that will be the case.

The libertarian in me says fine, let them do it; but make them stop pretending there is anything real backing these bets up.

Make them state in plain language that all of these instruments are just betting slips and psychology, not real companies making or losing real money. Make them state in plain language that when their betting slips go up it doesn't mean that any real money has been made by a real company; and when their betting slips go down, it doesn't mean that any real money has been lost by any real company (well, except the companies doing the betting).

...of course if we forced them to be honest about it, almost nobody would play.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

One Man, One Vote

Happy Birthday to the United States Air Force


On this day, in 1947, the United States Air force was chartered under the national security act:
  • to preserve the peace and security, and provide for the defense, of the United States, the Territories, Commonwealths, and possessions, and any areas occupied by the United States;

  • to support national policy;

  • to implement national objectives;

  • to overcome any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.

In general the United States Air Force shall include aviation forces both combat and service not otherwise assigned. It shall be organized, trained, and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations. The Air Force shall be responsible for the preparation of the air forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war.

In the air, on the ground, and in space

NOTHING CAN STOP THE US AIR FORCE


Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one hell of a roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew!
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true;
If you'd live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue!
Flying men, guarding the nation's border,
We'll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

What to Send in Care Packages to Servicemembers

I've had the question of what to send to servicemen in care packages pop up a couple times recently, and I thought I'd post an updated list here.

1. Reading material that is definitely not porn (or otherwise offensive to arabs or muslims). Adventure paperbacks are best
2. 550 cord
3. ranger bands (make your own, they're cheaper and better)
4. Babywipes in resealable containers. Foil softpacks work great
5. Lens cleaning wipes
6. Hun tape (hundred mile an hour tape, or gaffer tape. Like super duct tape)
7. Hard, shelf stable mints (like altoids, certs, tictacs etc...)
8. Games that don't have a lot of small pieces to lose
9. molle straps and clips (web straps and clips that are used for tying stuff down to molle gear)
10. Stuff sacks and molle pouches
11. Powdered soup mix (stick to chicken noodle)
12. Powdered cocoa
13. Bags of small balloons (you stretch them over things to keep the dust out)
14. Plastic baggies (same thing), and zip lock bags of all sizes
15. Regular and heavy duty rubber bands
16. Pocket sized notebooks
17. Gold bond medicated baby powder/foot powder in individual sized containers
18. Batteries (AAA, AA, cr123a, cr2032)
19. Sugar free water flavoring (Gatorade or koolaid etc... Packets preferably)
20. Shampoos
21. Bodywash
22. Razors/Blades
23. Lip balm (with an SPF preferred), bag balm, and carmex
24. Snacks
25. Any type of jerky
26. Hot sauce (in individual sized containers if possible)

If you're going to get food products, make sure they are shelf stable, and heat stable; and that they travel well (nothing too crumbly). Single serve packets are best.

PLEASE DO NOT send weapons/weapon accessories, Porn (Maxim is considered porn), alcohol, cigarettes, or pork products. This will cause trouble at customs.

On a more personal note, if you want to send something as a specific gift to an individual, let me recommend Wileys sun goggles and gloves, Surefire or Streamlight flashlights, underarmor t-shirts (or anything sweat wicking, but be sure to get the mil-spec ones that DONT melt into burn wounds); smartwool, spectra, or goretex socks; Danner, Corcoran, or Hi-Tec boots (if their command allows non issue boots).

If you really want to splash out, Aimpoint sights and QD mounts, Eotechs sights and QD mounts, and high quality weaponlights with mounts would be much appreciated; but you have to make sure that the individual serviceman is allowed to use them, and will be able to receive them where they are.

Be advised that knives will most likely be confiscated, even little ones.

Feel free to add your suggestions in comments, and I'll add them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Something a little funny about me

I've been on a reading binge the last few weeks.

For most of my life I've read at least a book a day most days, excepting while I was in the Air Force (didn't have that much time). For the last few years however, again I haven't had the time to read as much as I like; sometimes going two or three weeks without finishing a single book (I'm usually reading two books at once; a fiction, and a non fiction).

Well, after we got the new shelves in the bedroom set up, and sorted the to-read pile, I set in on it; and I've managed about a dozen books in the last couple weeks.

In the last 36 or so hours I've read three books; the first three of the 'doc ford' series by Randy Wayne White, published in mass market paperback by St. Martin press... And it made me realize something:

I LOATHE bad typography and poor quality paper. Seriously, I can't stand it. It ruins a reading experience for me. I like ebooks, which of course have no paper at all; so it's not that... I just hate reading words printed on thin paper with an unpleasant texture, and I especially hate reading poor type.

There is no excuse for poor typesetting in this day and age.

Honestly, these MM paperbacks were so badly typeset and printed, and on such bad paper, that if they weren't VERY good books otherwise, I would have stopped reading.

I dunno, maybe it's just me... but there's a reason I prefer to buy hardcover.

Random Thought

Is Barack Obama the 21st century Jay Gatsby?

Is he Bill McKay? Now What?

Hillary was clearly (well... IS clearly really...) Tracy Flick.

Discuss...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Force Multipliers and The Impossible Singularity

Engineers have a different definition of "impossible" than most other people.

See when a non-engineer says something is "impossible", what they generally really mean is either "I really don't want to do that", or "it's really really hard and we don't know how to figure it out yet but we probably will in the future".

When an engineer says something is impossible what he means is "There is no known way of doing this, nor under current scientific understanding CAN there be any way of doing this".

That's a pretty significant difference.

Oh and in case you're interested, when scientists say the word impossible, what they really mean is "It may theoretically be possible if we're wrong about the science... and we may be wrong about the science but I don't think so".

Actually, most of the time engineers and scientists will qualify the word impossible by saying "that's impossible based on current understanding" or something like that, because indeed, anything is possible... just highly improbable (parents, talk to your children about quantum physics, before they get it from the street).

There is a somewhat popular futurist notion going around right now, that basically says that because of the vast increases in human knowledge and available computing power, we will reach a technological "singularity", which will push us into a post scarcity economy, because once computers are smart enough to reproduce, and improve themselves into even smarter computers, all material problems will somehow be solved.

These utopians (and some dystopians) believe this singularity will solve all of our current material and economic problems... but it will create a whole new set of problems because today economies are based on scarcity, and we have no idea how to operate a post scarcity economy.

Which is true, we don't, but there's a much bigger problem with the idea of the singularity in and of itself.

The fundamental conceit of the unconstrained intellect, is that intellect can solve any problems. Of course, intellect is NOT unconstrained, no matter how we may wish it to be so... but it often looks like it to a lot of people.

Simply put, the singularity, as envisioned is impossible, by engineers terms.

A few days ago, Eric Raymond wrote about the Vanishing Consumption Gap, and some of the details and implications surrounding that.

Some of his commenters suggested that this was yet more indication of the singularity, and the transition to a post scarcity economy (unsurprisingly Eric disagreed).

One in particular used a common example of the argumentum continuum logical fallacy; presuming progress which had been made before, would continue at the same, or faster pace:
"My sister is a PhD bio researcher. In the 80s, using stone knives and bear skins, she perfected techniques for extracting and coding fish and insect DNA. 20 years later, those ground breaking techniques that she invented are not even considered. Computerized analyzers can do more work in 10 minutes than she could in a year. Once the software and hardware was developed, anyone with a high school bio education (or very smart) can run them and interpret the results. The equipment is not cheap (5K - 50K depending on various factors), but one machine and one technician costs less than her college education did.

The smart people, or the determined, dedicated, driven people, will invent new things and get paid (in coin or praise) for it, because they must. The rest of us will use it without thinking about it or even having a clue about it.

There will always be things that are expensive, that only the wealthy can afford, but what those items are will change - and the rate of change is accelerating."
To an extent, Dan is correct; though the implications are not nearly as far reaching as one would hope.

What Dan has described here is called a “force multiplier” a.k.a. productivity enhancement, which is part of what Eric was addressing in the first post (linked above).

The force multiplier effect is extremely well understood; it’s also well understood where it breaks down.

A (slightly dramatic) example:

Currently, given anything better than 6 to 1 odds against a third generation or earlier opponent (American forces are currently fourth generation warfighters; aka post industrial or information warfighters. Iraqis are third generation, industrial warfighters. Afghanis are second generation pre-industrial warfighters - not this is not related to the "4th generation warfare" concept); an American combat units advantages in morale, training, equipment, combat support, logistics, and what used to be called C2 (command and control), and is now often referred to as C4i (command, control, communications, computing and intelligence); allow commanders to remain confident in overall mission success.

Those are all force multipliers; i.e. factors that increase the effective productivity of an individual worker; or in this case warfighter.

Force multipliers have always existed, and always will. The English experienced an effective 5 to 1 force multiplier at Crecy, with the muddy terrain and the Longbow. The Spartans had an effective 25 to 1 force multiplier at thermopylae (3300 men including all the allied forces of Greece - not just 300 spartans - held off at least 80,000 Persians) with the terrain.

The problem lies in where those factors don’t work properly, are countered by the enemy (either by possessing similar factors themselves, or by using countermeasures), or are simply ineffective; as happened in Somalia, or as might happen in human wave attacks in bad weather (the north Korean scenario)… or as happened at Thermopylae when the Persians found a way around the hot gates.

Without force multipliers, the standard Clauswitzian maxim of needing a 2:1 advantage to have justified confidence in victory, and a 3:1 advantage to be assured of victory, still applies (3:1/6:1 if facing well trained troops in prepared defensive positions).

Also note, that force multipliers are far less effective on an individual warfighter basis as opposed to a full unit basis; because not all of them apply to the challenge of one man fighting another, and because size is an effective multiplier on it’s own (presuming a units C4i and logistics are adequate).

So, while a brigade of American troops in the open field, and with the initiative, may be as effective as six brigades of Iraqis; you still wouldn’t want to enter a standup fight on those odds unless you absolutely had to; and any individual American warfighter may only be as effective as any three, two, or even one Iraqi… or under certain circumstances less than one.

Now, as I said, this is a very dramatic example, with life and death stakes; but the principle of force multipliers also applies to industrial efforts.

Dans sister had the multiplier of being extremely intelligent and innovative, and did work that 50 less educated, intelligent, and innovative people could not do at the time. Today, a single one of those less educated, intelligent, and innovative people can do 50 times what she was able to do then…

…When those multipliers are in effect...

The reciprocal is also true however. Dans sister cannot now do 50 times what the intern can do; unless she can innovate again to give herself a new force multiplier. Therefore her labor efforts have been equalized with those of a lower value worker, in this instance.

Her force multiplier is still her intelligent, educated, and innovative brain however. When she can apply that, she will be many times more effective than someone without that advantage.

...When she can apply it...

The least constrained field of engineering is probably software development; because other than the availability of raw computing resources, software is essentially unconstrained. Whatever one can imagine, one can program (getting it to run fast enough to be useful... or to have useful input to produce useful output, is a different story of course).

Now, when it comes to a software development project, we all know that some engineers are 50 to 1 force multipliers, and some actually negate others (I've never heard the term force divisor, but it would apply to some engineers I've known); but that over time, as more effective techniques are developed and disseminated, the lowest performers still become more productive, along with the highest performers.

In fact the gap in performance tends to narrow, because the lower performers are able to take advantage of techniques that higher performers were using previously; while the higher performers are less likely to be able to find further optimizations without major paradigm shifts (in this case the phrase is actually appropriate).

We can surmise that so long as no physical limitation is put on intellectual output these same conditions will continue to apply. Everyone becomes more productive over time, but the less productive become more productive, faster than those who are most productive, because optimization of the most productive is more difficult; except when breakthroughs are made, when the cycle begins all over again.

The world of physical production is far more constrained.

Another example:

Although design and construction techniques have made housebuilding far faster than it was 20 years ago (force multipliers like the nailgun, construction adhesives, panelized construction, etc…), efficiencies in production technology will never allow a house to be constructed of 40% less wooden 2×4s.

We would need to shift to a new material, AND new designs to see that kind of efficiency; and even then the cost of adoption would be far higher until the replacement technologies became the dominant format within the distribution channel.

Quite simply, innovation without physical constraint proceeds geometrically (or faster), while innovation with physical constraint proceeds linearly or slower, with occasional leaps forward.

What you are speaking of when you say you think that we are unconstrained, or less constrained than Eric has stated, is that unconstrained intellectual development will trivialize constrained physical development.

In some areas, this has been the case… as Moores law has so dramatically proven for example; but in others it has not, and will not, without a massive paradigm shift.

The field of CPU manufacturing has been able to apply the force multiplier of unconstrained intellectual development; to compensate for the constrained physical development of fabrication processes, to the point of minimizing those constraints. Housebuilding on the other hand has not been able to make such compensations.

This is why CPUs are 1000 times faster and 90% cheaper than they were 25 years ago; but houses only cost 20% less per square foot to build (after accounting for inflation and normalizing for external factors on both sides).

The singularity will never happen, because the physical world is not amenable to being "solved" by infinite computing capacity.

Every major science and engineering problem in the world falls under these same parameters and constraints.

Now, if we can change fundamental science, to the point of matter reorganization (synthesis of arbitrary matter, from arbitrary matter, with reasonable energy inputs) then I’ll say the physical constraints won’t matter…

…but we don’t have any idea of how to do that, or if it is even possible.

…It’s a fundamental science problem, not an engineering problem. Every genius in the world could work on it 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and get no result, until and unless that fundamental breakthrough is made.

That is a physical constraint that cannot be overcome by intellectual effort; and there are many of them out there.

It’s why we don’t have fusion power, or direct conversion solar, or 1000mpg cars, or cars that run on water etc… etc… etc…

Once a fundamental science breakthrough IS made though, that’s when the unconstrained intellectual development of the engineers takes over, and the cycle begins again.

Oh and I should note before somebody gets stroppy that we’re not really sure if fusion power is a science problem or an engineering problem right now. As of right now we face three major problems with fusion:

1. We can’t figure out how to produce a stable, self sustaining reaction at a useful scale for industrial power production, and still control the reaction properly.

2. We can’t figure out how to get more energy out than we put in and still control the reaction properly (we know how to do it uncontrolled. It’s called a bomb).

3. We can’t figure out how to extract and use a useful percentage of the energy we would produce, if we could resolve the other two problems

Right now, we’re not really sure whether there is a fundamental problem we haven’t solved yet… or even discovered yet… or whether all of these issues can be resolved with engineering.
(On a side note... wouldn't this post title be a great name for a rock band?)

Sweet Merciful Christ, the Devil Rays and the Cubs ...

The mind boggles at the thought that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays... 'scuse me, "rays" (fuck that shit) and Chicago Cubs could actually be in the world series this year.

Well... I expect that prior to any possible Cubs appearance in a world series, Satans sphincter would open up and pull Wrigley field back down into hell (you didn't know that Satans asshole was Wrigley Field? I thought everybody knew)

...so, no worries there...

What's TRULY frightening to me, is that Tampa Bay is actually 1 game ahead of the Red Sox...

TAMPA FUCKING BAY?

Is Dread Cthulu rising or some shit?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Can't Disagree With a Word



In fact, let me say unequivocally, I'm OK with more people dying, so long as we have more freedom; be it with drugs, or guns, or sex, or anything else.

Are there limits? Of course there are; at the very least, my fist is limited by your nose... but doing immoral, unethical, and unconstitutional things (and I include setting arbitrary limits on freedom in that list) in service of "a good cause", does not make those things right.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years

September 11, 2001, 8:46am Eastern Daylight Time:



2556 days, 7660 dead,
and we will continue
until the mission is complete

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more. -- John F. Kennedy

We Will Never forgive

We Will Never Forget

We Will Never Stop

Some Damn Good Advice From an American by Choice





No further commentary necessary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

News Flash - World DOESN'T end because of "misguided science"

So, google had a pretty cool image up today




their approximation of the large hadron collider.

You know, the one the envirowhackos and pseudoscience idiots believe is going to destroy the universe?

It amazes me they managed to get this thing built in the land of the precautionary principle run mad (specifically Switzerland and France), but in fact it goes operational today. Hell it might already be creating micro black holes as I type this. Don't worry, if they exist at all (they probably don't), and if the LHC had enough energy to make them (it probably doesn't), they would collapse into themselves almost faster than they could be detected.

If we're SUPER LUCKY, it might even be producing Higgs Bosons... which we're almost sure we can detect if it does.

(actually, they're only testing it in one direction so there wont be any colliding going on today)

So, let me just say:

Yay Science, Screw You hippies!!!

Favorite Recipes?

So, there's a recipe contest going on at work, and I'm wondering what everyones favorite of my (or Mels) recipes is.

My personal favorite is the andouille Guinness chili, but I'm thinking that might be a bit much for work.

My second favorite is the "More Beef than Stew" which might work, but it's a bit simplistic.

Monday, September 08, 2008

True Blood Didn't Suck

Ok, sorry for the bad pun, but I swear it's unintentional; and accurate. That was my first though on watching it last night "Well, it didn't suck".

For those of you not getting the reference, "True Blood" is HBOs new vampire show, based on Charlaine Harrises "Southern Vampire Mysteries"; a wildly popular bestselling series of books in the modern fantasy romance/paranormal fantasy genre that has been so popular for the last five years or so.

The setup, is that vampires are real (and by extension other paranormal beasties, though in the early stages of the story that goes unsaid or is deprecated), and that they revealed themselves to the population at large ("came out of the coffin" as it were) when a synthetic substitute for human blood was developed.

Now, there's a vampire rights movement, vampire cultists, anti-vampire racists, vampire fetishists... basically all the cultural baggage you would expect. There are lots of vampires who've come fully out into the light so to speak, and are trying to live openly in society. There are also large groups of vampires who are unhappy with this turn of events, preferring that normals didn't know they really existed etc... and of course there's the good guys and bad guys. It IS storytelling after all.

All of these are common conceits of the modern vampire genre by the way (excepting synthetic blood. Usually they use pigs blood, and willing donors, to justify the act of vampirism) so if you're familiar with the genre you won't have too much catching up to do.

Well, disregarding the source material, the show has potential. It wasn't great, but it was interesting, well made, and just over the edge of "good", with the promise of better to come as the storyline unfolds and characters develop.

Charlaine Harris is a best selling author for a reason; and the characters and setting offer a lot of opportunity for growth and development.

...Guess I better actually read the books now... I've read "Dead Until Dark", the first in the series, and I liked it; but I'd never bothered with the rest (she's up to 8 in the direct story line now).

Anna Paquin is an odd one for me. She has these flashes of brilliance, mixed with longer periods of irritation. I'm curious to see how she'll do with Sookie. So far she's got the character down, but she's a bit "shiny penny" for me.

...Oh and her teeth bug me. Yes I know it's shallow, but she has very odd teeth, and it makes her mouth shape weird.

Actually, I was most impressed with newcomers Nelsan Ellis (only major credits are 2005 and newer), and Rutina Wesley (this is her second major credit); who could have been little more than ugly stereotypes with less capable acting. Their characters are over the top, but the actors characterizations makes them interesting rather than irritating.

An important note: this IS HBO, and apparently they have decided to push far beyond their normal levels of sexuality. There is a bit of soft-core porn-ish sex; and a not inconsiderable amount of naked sweaty skin (being set in Louisiana of course), and the teasers for future episodes promise much more of the same.

Don't worry, it's not Laurell K. Hamilton level smut ...it's not even skinemax level smut; but it's more explicit and graphic.

Given the general run of "vampire sex" in popular culture these days, and what I saw in the first episode; I'd guess it's going to be a lot "rougher" (in the sense of "rough sex") than most major studio features, or any other HBO/Showtime/Cinemax/FX show I've seen so far, like "the Sopranos", or "Dirt" (I heard Carnival had some rough stuff in it but never watched it).

Also, given the vampire genre, some of the characters in the story, and the producer Alan Ball; I would expect a VERY LARGE amount of explicit homoeroticism. If that makes you uncomfortable, or you just don't want to see it, I'm guessing that later episodes of this show won't be fore you.

All that said, the actual sex bits were maybe five minutes out of an hour show.

Given it IS a modern vampire story of course, sexual tension and innuendo were most of the remaining 50 someodd minutes... (one thing I like about HBO and Showtime shows, is that they actually run more than 42 minutes of content plus titles, running between 52 and 56 minutes plus titles).

We'll see how much they stick to the books, which are balanced between the "modern fantasy romance" and "supernatural detective" genres.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I Can't Believe it's been Five Years

Warren Zevon died five years ago today.

Fuck.

I remember hearing he was sick... then they did a documentary of him working on his last album and the tribue; and then the collaboration/tribute album came out... I still can't believe it's five years.

So anyway, here's his last appearance (on Letterman, which I watched live the first time around), followed by some other of my favorites:









Now there aren't many Zevon tunes I don't like, but I've got four special favorites:






Unfortunately, there are a few copies of my second favorite Zevon song "Poor Poor Pitiful Me"; but none of them are good enough quality that I want to post them here.

They DO have a good quality copy of my absolute favorite Zevon song though, "Hit Somebody"(with vocals from David Letterman):



So everyone, enjoy every sandwich.

Friday, September 05, 2008

And this is from TMZ




Yes, TMZ. With 90,000 respondents to the poll, on the famously "in the tank for Obama" gossip/celeb news site; Palin is the big hero, Biden is the big zero.

They still love Obama and hate McCain though.

Just randomly, one of my favorite songs of all time



Hard to figure out what my favorite Stevie song is really. "I Wish" is close, but so are Superstition, "Higher Ground", "Sir Duke"... hell nearly anything off of "Innervisions", "Talking Book", or "Song in the Key of Life"... or reaching back to "Signed Sealed Delivered" or even "For Once in My Life", or "Uptight".

Funny thing... even if you "don't know any Stevie Wonder" you do, because his music is so widely copied, sampled, covered, and put in the soundtracks of movies, tv shows, and commercials... it's absolutely ingrained in our culture. In fact I'd almost say you'd be hard pressed to watch TV for more than a couple hours and NOT hear something written by Stevie Wonder.

I can't tell you the number of times someone has said to me "oh hey I love that song, who is it", and I'll tell them it's Stevie, and they'll be shocked or just won't believe it; because their mental image of Stevie is "My Cherie Amor" or "Ebony and Ivory" (which I actually like, cheesy as it is) or something similar.

Well as you can tell, I much prefer his blues, soul, and funk tunes. Man, Stevie rocks, aint no two ways about it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

1, 2, 3, Set'em up, and Knock'em down

So, last night I watched, in succession (through the wonder of teh intartubes) the RNC speeches from Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and Sarah Palin.

Folks, there has not been a better slate of political speeches in my lifetime. Oh sure, Romney, Huckabee, and Lieberman were in the mix; but their contributions were meaningless and everyone (including them) knew it.

The setup was the 1,2,3.

Fred built the stage:



Rudy warmed up the crowd:



And Sarah knocked'em dead in the aisles:



Whatever you think of the current Republican ticket (or the Republican party in general), you have to acknowledge that this is the single greatest act of political speechmaking since Kennedy; possibly since Churchill at Westminster.

… of course the fact that this is so is sad; given that it was primarily an anti-obama stump set, and the greatest of political speeches should be building things up, not tearing people down… but sometimes a man NEEDS to be torn down… or rather the inflated funhouse mirror image of a man.

Still, I believe it remains the single greatest act of politicial speechmaking in decades.

I say single act, because the three speeches really must (and clearly were intended to be) be taken together to get the full and coordinated impact. Yes, each speech stands as a solid construction on it’s own; but it’s the combination that really achieves the goal.

You can see it in the desperation, and the froth and spittle, and the feces flinging on the left. Shortly, you’ll be seeing it in the poll results… if the left will ever let an honest poll seep into the public perception.

Obamas support has clearly peaked. He’s got all the voters he’s ever going to get… and in fact if the sociology of polling proves true in this case as it has so many times before, even the support he supposedly DOES have may be between 10% and 25% less than reported.

McCain on the other hand keeps gaining support; and the actions and choices of his campaign are just solidifying that.

McCains biggest problem isn’t Obama; it’s the fact that the people who elected George W. Bush twice, mostly don’t much care for McCain. Of course they also mostly don’t care much for Bush anymore, but that’s another issue entirely. Bush has shown that he is not acting in their interests and according to their principles; or that when he is, he is doing so incompetent… but those principles haven’t changed, and those people want someone to represent them.

McCain has the support of the center right, and even much of the center left; that has never been his problem. His problem has been on the right. Up until now, the voters on the right have not believed that a McCain administration would represent them properly.

As of now, problem solved.

Sarah Palin, going on the offensive, these speeches, the choices the Obama campaign is making… McCain has finally got the right behind him.

The only issue I see, is that after this, there is no way McCains speech won’t be a let down.

If McCain manages to pull his off right (short, humble, quiet, dignified but maybe a little angry…), barring major disaster, he’s won the election.

The Republicans have taken the initiative from the democrats. They’ve forced them to react, and are continuing to keep them reacting. They’ve forced them to go to depths of filth that repulse the American people.

Frankly, the Republicans have pushed the left over the edge, and are laughing as the deranged and deluded, fall screaming to their defeat.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Fantasy Football

My best friend doesn't have internet access at home or work (or rather his access is limited and intermittent) and he's bad with statistics and the like. I on the other hand spend pretty much 24/7 online (I've got an iPhone after all) and I'm very good with numbers.

So, he wanted to try and play fantasy football last year, but couldnt figure out the details in time to get into a draft. This year he got an invite a couple weeks early, and roped me in to managing the team with him.

Now, no man has a greater love for football than me, but I'm not so sure about the whole fantasy thing... I mean it seems kinda interesting and all, but also kinda wanktastic.

Anyway, our fantasy league is through Yahoo, which has you pre-rank all your players, priorities and positions, and does an autodraft. We have 8 teams in our league, so I made 8 primary and a couple of secondary choices for each position and then put them in our pre-draft player list.

Then I decided where I wanted to put each player in our priorities; which is kinda hard actually, given you have no idea what the other teams are going to do... You could put all your top picks for a particular position up front, but you'd end up week in other positions if you do etc...

Here was our pre-draft list in preference order by position (not in draft preference order which was messy, and I no longer have my notes on it):

Offense

QB - Tom Brady
QB - Peyton Manning
QB - Tony Romo
QB - Eli Manning
QB - Carson Palmer
QB - Jake Delhomme
QB - Ben Roethlisberger
QB - Donovan McNabb

TE - Vernon Davis
TE - Antonio Gates
TE - Tony Gonzales
TE - Dallas Clark
TE - Heath Miller
TE - Jeremy Shockey
TE - Greg Olson
TE - Ben Watson

WR - Randy Moss
WR - Santonio Homes
WR - Calvin Johnson
WR - Reggie Wayne
WR - Sidney Rice
WR - Ted Ginn Jr.
WR - Kevin Walter
WR - Vincent Jackson

RB - Ladanian Tomlinson
RB - Adrian Peterson
RB - Brian Westbrook
RB - Clinton Portis
RB - Joseph Addai
RB - Marchand Lynch
RB - Frank Gore
RB - Marian Barber

PK - Stepehen Gostowski
PK - Adam Viniateri
PK - Josh Brown
PK - Nate Kaeding
PK - Nick Folk
PK - Phil Dawson
PK - Shayne Graham
PK - David Akers

Defense

Defense - Patriots
Defense - Steelers
Defense - Vikings
Defense - Chargers
Defense - Giants
Defense - Bears
Defense - Jets
Defense - Cowboys

Well, our draft was yesterday, and we got first pick (randomly selected):

Starting:

QB: Eli Manning
WR: Vincent Jackson
WR: Santonio Holmes
RB: LaDainian Tomlinson
RB: John Paul Foschi
TE: Vernon Davis
W/R: Hines Ward
K: Steven Gostowski
Defense: Indianapolis Colts

Bench:

QB: Jake Delhomme
WR: Nate Burleson
WR: Marvin Harrison
TE: Ben Watson
K: David Akers
Defense: Jacksonville Jaguars

Waivers:

RB: John Paul Foschi
WR: Marvin Harrison

Adds:

RB: Ricky Williams
RB: Rashard Mendenhall

Overall though I'm happy with the draft, with a couple of exceptions (that I'm trying to fix with waivers and adds).

We got our top pic in Ladainian Tomlinson, which I'm very happy about, and our top pick for kicker in Gostowski. I'm also pleased we got Holmes, Jackson, and Davis

Unfortunately, it seems that most of the other teams in our league put our top few choices for RB and QB in their lists, at higher priorities than ours, so we ended up with a two middle of the road QBs, a secondary runningback I've never even heard of (he wasn't on our list at all), and we ended up heavy on wide recievers.

Also we didn't get any of our choices of defense, which is weird because two of our top 8 picks went undrafted; but I'm not really unhappy with what we've got either.

It seems that the autodraft software is a bit buggy. Somehow we ended up with a couple players I put on the exclusion list as definitely NOT wanting. Also some of our picks weren't chosen by any other team in the league, but we were given players lower in our priority list, and the players we prioritized higher went undrafted... and for some reason we cannot now pick those players to replace the ones we got.

Anyway, I'm trying to compensate for that by adding and dropping as best I can before this weekend (the first trade/add/drop deadline is Friday).

Overall though, I think we're looking very competitive. I just need to shore up that secondary running back (I REALLY wanted Addai, Westbrook, Lynch, Gore, or Barber... and who the hell is Foschi?)... and we've got a nice deep bench, with good trade prospects.

Nah, I don't know what THIS is like at all.. really...

Dilbert.com

Appleseed and gun nuts



So, I called in to Caleb and Squeakys blogtalk radio show "Gun Nuts - The Next Generation" last night, to share my experience with the appleseed program.

Now, just so people know where I'm coming from, I've had both military and civilian pistol and rifle training from several shooting classes and schools, from the beginner to the advanced level. I've been to two appleseeds, one taught by Fred himself and one where I didn't shoot (I wasn't feeling well). I shot in one and scored quite well despite injuries and an AR that became a straight pull boltie half way through (bad ammo resulted in a gummed up chamber, a weak extractor, and a gummed up gas tube).

I'm also a qualified instructor myself, and have been in the past a firearms safety, basic handgun shooting, basic firearms ownership and safety, and defensive shooting instructor. I have also developed and delivered individualized firearms instruction.

Outside of formalized firearms education, I've been a shooter for 25 years (since I was a young boy); and as part of my profession, an instructor in physical and information security for over 10 years.

I got a great deal out of my Appleseed experience, but I don't think it's for everyone; and importantly, as it is today, I don't think it's really for beginners, as some seem to promote it as.

You don't need to be an advanced shooter, in fact I think you'll get more out of it if you arent; but I think you need to have some basic shooting skills and experience before you take the appleseed program, so you can make the best use of the lessons you learn there, and so that you learn them in a way that is useful to you.

I think that from a technical standpoint the fundamental marksmanship they teach is good; and presuming the volunteer instructors are good, you should have a good and useful training experience as well as a good time. I also think the political message behind the program is fundamentally good.

Where I think they go wrong, is that they market themselves as good for absolute beginners, and then deliver training that I think is not the best for absolute beginners; as well as load that training with a lot of politics (both intentionally to some degree, and unintentionally by the atmosphere, environment, and participants).

Anyway, listen to the whole show here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gunnuts

What the MSM and the Leftroots...

don't understand is how they can drag out so much "dirt" about Gov. Palin and we can still love her so much.

Aren't we conservative? Don't teen pregnancy and drunk driving bother us?

Sure, it bothers us. So why don't we hate her? And as importantly, how can we love her so much but hate Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and William Jefferson so much? Aren't all "scandals" alike?

No, not really.

Here's the deal. I think honestly the reason we like Gov. Palin so much is because she's so much LIKE US.

Think of your immediate family, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I can almost guarantee you that somewhere in that group of relations there is at least one
A.) teen pregnancy and/or marriage,
B.) DUI,
C.) blue collar worker,
D.) special needs child and
E.) mother who works.

In my case I have 4 of option A, countless of option B (not me of course), at least 50% of my family fits C, there's a couple of option D, and almost all of us mothers are option E.

However, no where in my family line (and I'm guessing this applies to most other people as well) do I have
A.) a man who got a blowjob in public office on public property and then lied about it in open court,
B.) a man who cheated on his terminally ill wife, and
C.) a man who filled his freezer with bribes accepted while in public office.

We hate the Democrats who did these things because honestly, besides being absolutely sleazy, every single one of those actions was an egregious violation of trust, either the trust of the public or the trust of their families (or both).

The thing the MSM doesn't understand about Palin's scandals is that they're everyone's scandals. Who doesn't have a bit of that family drama going around? Who doesn't have someone in their family who, every time someone speaks of them the first comment is ," what did they do this time?" We all have at least one embarrassment in our family line somewhere, and if that's all it takes to disqualify us from public office, how would anyone get elected without large amounts of money and a huge cleanup crew?

But that's really the point isn't it?

Somehow limiting ourselves to the option of the extremely moral and self-sacrificing candidate or the rich elitist with enough money to shut everyone up doesn't fill me with warm fuzzies.

Mel

cross-posted at Mrs. Anarchangel

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

God Damn It.... Another Great Voice Dies Today

Country music legend, singer, guitar player, and actor Jerry Reed died today, at 71.

I think we all know this one, whether you're a redneck or not:



I s'pose most folks not fans of fingerstyle guitar remember him for being Cletus the "snowman" in "Smokey and the Bandit".

What most folks DON'T know, is that he was a singer, guitar player, producer, and a songwriter in Nashville for 'round 45 years; writing with and for Johnny Cash, Elvis, Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins and many others.

He was also one of the best fingerpickers out there. You can see in this (and many other) videos, that he had no problem holding his own with his good friend Chet Atkins (who actually considered Jerry the better fingerstyle player):


Amazingly, Jerry didn't have a very high opinion of his own musicianship, thinking of himself more as a songwriter.... and yet he could do this:



Reed always had a great sense of fun, with songs like "Amos Moses":



and "She got the gold mine, I got the shaft":



Rest in peace guitarman.

Longer review to come - One line about "Tropic Thunder"

Tropic thunder is literally the funniest movie I've seen in years; and if you don't see it you are depriving yourself of the best "laugh out loud so hard you cry" comedy since Mel Brooks last made a good movie.

Pop Culture Loses an Icon



Don La Fontaine Passed on yesterday.

Yeah, his style might be it's own parody at this point, but you know what? People are reassured by that voice. It's a deeply ingrained part of our cultural experience, and I think everyone will miss it.

The other ultra-famous "deep voice" guy is Hal Douglas, and unfortunately he's probably not going to be with us much longer either (he's 84):



Other "deep voice guys" like Ashton Smith, Peter Cullen, Nick Tate, Al Chalk, and John Leader owe their whole style to La Fontaine and Douglas (who claim to have both independently come up with the catchphrase "in a world"); who brought trailers from the "high energy action man" voiceover, into the "deep voice" style in the mid 70s.

Other than the more lighthearted (and higher pitched) sound favored by some comedies and most disney/pixar/dreamworks animated movies (mostly voiced by Mark Elliot); most every trailer you hear these days will be voiced in the LaFontaine style, or the Douglas style.

One should note, that La Fontaine was not only a voiceover artist, he basically created the modern style of trailer (for good or ill) with his production company... which is actually how he ended up doing voice overs in the first place.

Not many men will ever have that kind of impact on a culture.

Rest in Peace, Don La Fontaine.

Wow this is some CREEPYass shit

Seriously, what the fuck is wrong in the head with the people at planned parenthood?

Ok... I can think of about a million things, but seriously, who thought this shit was a good idea (click for video)?

Doc Martens All Purpose CureAll

Monday, September 01, 2008

Infuriating, but unsurprising



I've been talking about RFID as a security risk for a long time now... Now, my card companies have sent me two cards that have RFID tags in them, without my requesting it or approving it; and there is no option NOT to have this "feature".

Of course now all passports have an RFID tag embedded in them (mine doesn't yet... next year).

Again, no option to NOT have this "feature".

...So I have an RFID blocking wallet, and passport folio.